Safety of staff for charity as it prepares to re-open

Ahmed Rajab

TO say that these have been challenging times is a gross understatement for Al-Khair Foundation, a registered Muslim charity which has been operating out of the UK since 2008.

In these days of the Coronavirus, the Foundation’s major challenge has been to continue with its activities uninterrupted but to follow the guidelines provided by the medical profession and guidelines by the Government.

With the safety of staff and welfare of beneficiaries’ paramount, the Charity had to ensure continuity of operations and compliance with pandemic controlling measures.

The Charity was among the first institutions to ask staff to work-from-home on March 23 and had closed its schools three days earlier. Approximately 20 per cent of staff members were furloughed in early April.

Where it was not possible for some staff to work from home, the Charity re-arranged its working space to allow for effective social distancing in its premises. The Charity is currently engaged in a plan to facilitate return to work when it will be deemed safe to do so, through making its premises compliant with health and safety regulations.

Already, part of the routine in preparation for the re-opening of the premises has been regular “deep-cleansing. We are preparing the premises for when we will re-open,” CEO of Al-Khair, Shuayb Yousuf said.

Yousuf envisages a number of changes for when they restart their activities. These include keeping their visitors to a minimum, providing sanitizers to the staff and visitors as well as installing CCTV outside the premises whose doors have now been automated.

“We have also decided to provide counselling for our employees, and we will monitor their welfare and health conditions. So as to discourage them from using public transport we will help with car parking costs. And we will provide masks to those who have no alternative to public transport,” said Shuayb who added that masks will also be provided for use in the premises if needed.

Social-distancing will be another measure that will be practised inside the premises. That would be easy to implement as the building has large spaces.

Since the lock-down, Shuayb has been in regular contact with all Al-Khair teams and the human resources department has been monitoring staff’s well-being. Such counsel has been given to those furloughed as well as to those working from home.

During the coronavirus pandemic, Al-Khair’s aid deliveries have continued unabated despite its reduced staff. In the UK, the branch network acted as community hubs for the distribution of food parcels.

The main call-centre received calls from the public at large not only for donations-processing but also for listening to people’s needs and for delivering food parcels. At times, the call-centre just provided “an ear” to lonely and anxious callers.

The Charity also made available all its facilities, mostly buildings, to the Government’s effort in combating the pandemic.

In the UK, Al-Khair Foundation operates four schools and three TV channels broadcasting on SKY (IQRA Urdu, IQRA Bangla, and IslamTV).

For more information visit: www.alkhair.org

Making safety priority when furniture shop opens

Trade Furniture Warehouse, Greyhound Lane, Streatham, London

Ahmed Rajab

TRYING to run a business in the time of the Covid-19 is akin to a nightmare, according to Waheed Ahmed. His “Trade Furniture Warehouse”, in Greyhound Lane, Streatham, has been officially closed since the lockdown.

In normal times the furniture shop, always busy with customers, was festooned with billboards advertising deals of the day. All manner of households and office furniture was staked inside its large showroom and overflowed outside.

Trade Furniture Warehouse is a limited company with three employees, including Ahmed, its Director.

The retail business has been operating from the same premises since 1995 specialising in furniture for the rental market. It was a popular spot for customers, particularly landlords, looking for reasonably priced new and clean second-hand furniture.

These days the retail shop looks pitifully sad and abandoned. Its shut doors, a sign of the times, evince horror in Ahmed’s mind.

The lockdown has directly affected not only him and his customers but equally worrying for him, also his two fellow employees. They have all been forced to stay at home and have not been able to go to work.

“It’s been tough since the lockdown with no customers and, hence, no income coming in,” says Ahmed. If we don’t have customers, we don’t have an income, as simple as that.”

However, the announcement by the Prime Minister that, with the fall in the UK’s rate of infection, non-essential establishments such as Ahmed’s will be allowed to open their doors on June 15 has given hope to the furniture retailer.

“That’s good news. But obviously the way we do business will have to change. It will not be business as usual,” says Ahmed cautiously.
The retailer’s main concern is for the health and safety of his employees. My first duty of care is to them,” he says.

“I have to make sure that they are protected and do not catch the Coronavirus from the outside.” Ahmed says that this will not be the first time for him to take such measures for the safety of his employees and customers.

“Even before the lockdown when the Coronavirus started spreading we took precautions. We wore masks in the shop. When we next open, in addition to us wearing masks, we will also have tape on the floor for social distancing. The tape will show where exactly the customer should stand.

“We will also provide masks to our staff and they use public transport as some live far away. We will also restrict the number of customers in the shop to one or two at a time,” says Ahmed.

To further minimise physical contact between shop employees and customers most payment will be done online or by cards.

“And, of course, in the event of cash payment, there will be social distancing between the customer and whoever will collect the cash.

“Luckily, we are a small business and we are not as big as Sainsbury’s or Tesco, for example with hundreds of customers coming through their doors so our challenges are not as huge as theirs. Nevertheless, our health and safety safeguards will be applied vigorously. Social distancing is important.

“To avoid the risk of customer-to-customer infection or customer-to-employee, I will ensure that we wipe all the furniture touched by customers.

“We also ensure there are sanitisers for customers to use when they enter and leave the shop. Of course, our staff will be provided with them too.”
Will he insist on his customers wearing masks in the shop?

“I’m not sure what the Government guidelines will be on retail business but if they tell us to ask our customers to do so then fine. We’ll definitely provide masks for our staff. If the Government says that customers need to wear them as well prior to coming in then we will insist on them doing so.”

 

Working safely during Covid-19: the 5 steps

The Department for Business, Energy & Industry Strategy has created five main steps for businesses to take to ensure safety during the Coronavirus pandemic. Businesses should:

1 Conduct a Covid-19 risk assessment that:

Is in line with Health & Safety Executive guidance

Involves consulting with workers or trade unions

Includes sharing the results of the risk assessment with your workforce and on your website

 

2 Develop cleaning, hand washing & hygiene procedures by:

Encouraging people to follow the NHS guidance

Providing hand sanitiser around the workplace, in addition to washrooms

Frequently cleaning & disinfecting objects/surfaces that are touched regularly

Enhancing cleaning for busy areas

Setting clear use & cleaning guidance for toilets

Providing paper towels or electrical dryers

 

3 Help staff work from home by:

Discussing home working arrangements

Ensuring they have the equipment, for example, remote access to work systems

Including them in all necessary communications

Looking after their physical & mental wellbeing

 

4 Maintain 2 metres social distancing, where possible by:

Placing signs stating social distancing rules

Avoiding sharing workstations

Using floor tape/paint to mark a 2-metre distance

Arranging one-way traffic through the workplace if possible

See visitors by appointment only if possible

 

5 Where people cannot be 2 metres apart, manage transmission risk by:

Assessing if the activity is essential

Keeping the activity time involved short

Using screens or barriers to separate people

Using back-to-back or side-to-side working when possible

Staggering arrival and departure times

Further safety guidance will be published by the Government as more businesses can reopen. For more info or updates click here

 

 

Slave trader statue toppled as anti-racism protests sweep the UK

Black Lives Matter protest in London June 6, London (Credit: Socialist Appeal/Flickr)

Elham Asaad Buaras

For the second consecutive weekend, tens of thousands of demonstrators attended Black Lives Matter protests across the UK, including one in Bristol where a statue of a slave trader was pulled down.

Demonstrations were organised after George Floyd died in Minneapolis, US, when a white police officer held him down by pressing a knee into his neck for more than eight minutes. Various other protests have also been held in the US and all over the world.

In Bristol, demonstrators attached a rope to the statue of slave trader Edward Colston on Colston Avenue before pulling it to the ground as crowds cheered. They then rolled it down the street before pushing it into Bristol Harbour.

Home Secretary, Priti Patel, branded the act “utterly disgraceful” and that “acts of public disorder that have actually now become a distraction from the cause in which people are protesting about.”

Supt Andy Bennett of Somerset and Avon Police, said his force is investigating into criminal damage. Bennett did, however, say he understood that Colston was “a historical figure that’s caused the Black community quite a lot of angst over the last couple of years”, adding,“Whilst I am disappointed, that people would damage one of our statues. I do understand why it’s happened, it’s very symbolic. ”

Bennett hinted that prosecutions will take place only if Bristol City Council wishes to press charges. The Mayor of Bristol, Marvin Rees, said, “it’s important to listen to those who found the statue to represent an affront to humanity.”

The statue, erected in 1895, has long been a focal point for anger at the city’s role in the slave trade and the continued commemoration of those who were involved in it. A petition to remove it had garnered more than 11,000 signatures.

It said, “Whilst history shouldn’t be forgotten, these people, who benefited from the enslavement of individuals, do not deserve the honour of a statue.” Colston’s company transported more than 100,000 slaves from West Africa to the Caribbean and the Americas between 1672 and 1689, cramming them into ships to maximise profit.

The slaves, including women and children, were branded on the chest with the company’s initials, RAC. Unhygienic conditions, dehydration, dysentery and scurvy killed more than 20,000 during the crossings and their bodies were thrown overboard.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has announced a commission to review and improve diversity across London’s public realm to ensure the capital’s landmarks suitably reflect London’s achievements and diversity. In London, thousands gathered outside the US Embassy in solidarity with demonstrators in the US.

An anti-racism protest was held at Parliament Square in Westminster. The statue of Winston Churchill in the square was graffitied with “ racist” written below. At around 8 pm, there were clashes on Whitehall between police and a crowd of protesters throwing objects including bottles and traffic cones.

According to the Met Police, a total of 36 people were arrested in the capital on June 7, for offences including violent disorder, criminal damage and assaulting police.

Warwickshire Police said the southbound carriage of the M6 was closed for an hour from 6 pm while pedestrian protesters blocked it at junction 3 before they “headed to Coventry at junction 2.” It is estimated around 2,000 people joined a demonstration in Cardiff on June 6.
Protesters filed into Bute Park in the Welsh capital’s city centre holding placards to hear from speakers addressing injustices black people face across the world.

Covid-19: Muslim family donate over 5,000 antibody testing kits to Lancashire hospitals

The Bhailok family with NHS staff at Royal Preston Hospital (Credit: Lancashire Teaching Hospitals)

Elham Asaad Buaras

Lancashire Teaching Hospitals (LTH) announced that a local millionaire had donated thousands of new Covid-19 anti-body testing kits. The Bhailok family donated antibody testing kits costing £50,000.

Dr Mohammed Munavvar, Consultant Chest Physician and Interventional Pulmonologist at LTH, called the donation “the first of its kind in the UK.”

Explaining the importance of the “rapid, point-of-care antibody test” he said they would allow staff members to “facilitate unique initial feasibility studies in our frontline health workers. Following this evaluation, it is our hope to extend this testing to our other healthcare workers and beyond.”

The Bhailok family has already donated £50,000 as part of their appeal to raise funds to help the NHS. Property millionaire Yousuf Bhailok led the project with his family members Mustaq, Ayub and Dr Faisal Bhailok and his wife Lamisha who both work for LTH. Yousuf, former Secretary -General of the Muslim Council of Britain, told The Muslim News, “We were the first ones in the country to get them the diagnostic antibodies.”

“We procured PPEs, NHS heroes support packs [in addition] Qur’an cubes, Zamzam water and prayer beads for Muslim patients. We assisted with certain oxygen PPAP machines and whatever else they needed at their discretion including food and grocery supplies for the staff at RPH.

“So it was primarily there to support locally the needs of the front line NHS workers and instead of having to go through the bureaucratic channels of central procurement, whatever they needed locally they didn’t have to wait and they should get it,” Bhailok added.

LTH said they were planning to first use the tests to compare accuracy for existing tests on staff that had tested positive or negative for Covid-19.

Head of Charities at LTH NHS Foundation Trust, Paula Wilson, thanked the family for “their amazing generosity and continued support.

The Bhailok family decided very early on in the Covid-19 pandemic to purchase these testing kits and worked hard to procure them under unprecedented global pressures, for the benefit of our dedicated staff members. I would really like to commend them for this amazing act of kindness.”

Natural History Museum appoints first Muslim Trustee

Hamed Chapman

First Muslim has been appointed by the Prime Minister to the Natural History Museum in London.

Harris Bokhari, who serves as a board member of Prince’s Trust Mosaic Initiative and as an ambassador for the British Asian Trust, becomes the third Muslim trustee at the top six museums in the capital.

Being the first British-born trustee appointment, Bokhari said, “One of my personal priorities will be to ensure that the museum continues to reach out to diverse audiences so that we can all equally share in its joy and wonder.”

“The museum is a true national treasure, home to one of the world’s most important natural history collections, with a crucial mandate to educate on some of our most prescient global issues,” said Bokhari, Founder of the charities Patchwork Foundation and the Naz Legacy Foundation.

Other Muslim trustees include Egyptian-born Minouche Shafik at the British Museum and Pakistan-born Farooq Chaudhry at the Tate. BAME members represent a total of 10 of the 98 trustee positions at London’s major museums.

“These institutions play such an important role in helping our society connect with their heritage. Having governance teams who reflect the realities of contemporary, diverse Britain will be an important step towards achieving that.”

His appointment coincided with the native of Bolton, Ismail Amla, becoming a board member of UK Sport for the next three years. He was appointed by Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Oliver Dowden. Previously, he has worked extensively with non-profit organisations, who have used sports to increase aspiration levels in minority communities. He is Chief Growth Officer at Capita.

The Culture Secretary said the Government encourages people from all backgrounds to apply for public appointments and was why he was “delighted to see Harris and Ismail take up these roles. Our public bodies should represent society as a whole, and the Government is determined to help make that happen.”

Zanzibar cuisine under lockdown

Ahmed Rajab

Abdulaziz Maxmud has been running a small but thriving catering business for the past four years. His speciality is Swahili cuisine, a fusion of African, Arab, Persian and Indian fare.

He is much in demand among his fellow east Africans as he is among the handful of caterers of choice for their wedding ceremonies, parties as well as post-funeral sadaqa.

Maxmud also supplies biriyani, on a daily basis, to a popular food outlet “Zanzibar Hot Style”, which operate out of Barking Market, in east London. In addition to Maxmud’s sumptuous biriyani, the “Zanzibar Hot Style” is also famous for its takeaway pilau, mandazi, chapati, samosas, mishkakis.
Because of the nature of his enterprise Maxmud’s overheads are minimal. He cooks in his family kitchen where he can summon the assisting hands of his wife and children.

Maxmud’s business has been hard hit by the Coronavirus pandemic. The lockdown has forced him to cease his food delivery service. A ban on social gatherings has meant no wedding receptions, no parties and no funeral services.

Photo: Abdulaziz Maxmud owner of a thriving catering business

During the holy month of Ramadan, Maxmud had a tender to supply daily iftar (breaking of fast) to a north London mosque for the entire month. As mosques remain closed as a result of the pandemic that tender was understandably rescinded.

“Zanzibar Hot Style” had also pulled down its shutters because of the Corona pandemic, leaving Maxmud bereft of his clientele.

With the lockdown, life suddenly became bleak for Maxmud who was at his wits end until his accountant, originally from Algeria, alerted him to the Government’s Self-Employment Income Support Scheme. Under the scheme, all self-employed people who are adversely affected by the Coronavirus (Covid-19) can claim a grant.

“My accountant assisted me hugely,” says Maxmud. “I first checked if I was eligible to apply for the grant and when I saw that I was I immediately applied, It did not take long after I applied for the grant to be approved and to have the funds deposited in my bank account. Everything went smoothly. There were no hiccups.”

The scheme allows those eligible to claim a taxable grant of 80 per cent of one’s average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment covering three months, and capped at £7,500 altogether. This is a temporary scheme, but it may be extended.

“The grant is a great help to me. Although it is subject to Income Tax and self-employed National Insurance, I do not have to repay it. I’m confident that once the lockdown is ended my business will pick up again and that grant would have contributed to it,” says Maxmud.

 

Lebanon-born teenager shot dead in crossfire of business dispute

(Photo: Aya Hachem/CC)

Elham Asaad Buaras

A “remarkable and inspirational” 19-year-old law student was shot dead in the street of Blackburn after being caught in a drive-by shooting, Preston Crown Court heard on May 27. Aya Hachem was hit by one of two bullets fired from a passing car as she shopped near her home on May 17.

Six people charged with her murder appeared at Preston crown court via a video link. Alexander Langhorn, prosecuting, said police had been called to the shooting, arising out of what appeared to be a dispute between RI Tyres and Quick Shine.

Langhorn argued the defendants arranged the attempt to shoot and kill Pachah Khan, the owner and manager of Quick Shine.
Feroz Suleman, 39, appeared alongside fellow defendants 24-year-old Kashif Manzoor; Ayaz Hussain, 34; Uthman Satia, 28; and Abubakir Satia, 31, as well as Judy Chapman, 26. They were all further remanded in custody and no applications for bail were made.

The six are also charged with the attempted murder of Khan.
Separately on May 17, a 33-year-old woman from Bolton became the 15th person arrested in connection with Hachem’s murder. Further to the six people charged, two men have been bailed, five people released under investigation and one man released without charge.

Hachem died in hospital from the single gunshot wound, a short time after emergency services were called to the scene in King Street at about 3 pm.
Her family arrived in the UK 10 years ago after fleeing violence in their native Lebanon. Her father, Ismael, finally secured his British citizenship last year, family friends have said.

Her distraught parents described the teen who was a young trustee at the Children’s Society, as the “most loyal devoted daughter” who enjoyed spending time with her family and dreamed of becoming a solicitor.

Hachem’s colleagues and former teachers have described her as “a beacon of hope”, who was determined to use her experience to improve lives in Britain. The Lebanon-born teenager, who was a second-year student at the University of Salford, was buried in the town of Koleileh, Lebanon on May 24.

Her mother Samar Hachem, who had travelled to Lebanon for the funeral, recalled the moment she was informed of her daughter’s death.
“I started to shout, maybe to scream, I thought maybe an accident, maybe a car or something like that,” she said.

“I asked, what’s happened to her? Is she still in the hospital? And he told me, she’s dead.” Describing the moment he found out about her death, her father Ismail Hachem said, “We had heard helicopters and police cars nearby. Her mother sent me to check up on what was happening. I gave the police a description of my daughter, and they came to my house later and pronounced her dead.

“It was gut-wrenching. Her mother fell to the ground begging the officer to tell her that it wasn’t her daughter that this had happened to. Her two younger siblings were in hysterics. All that comes out of their mouth now is ‘Where’s Aya? Is she never coming home?’ What am I supposed to tell them?”

Judge Mark Brown described the murder as “a worst-case scenario” amid the coronavirus pandemic. He said he hoped it may be brought forward but jury trials across the region were not expected to begin “in the next few weeks.”

Police have now arrested 19 people as part of their investigation.

 

Memoriam: Remembering healthcare workers who have died fighting Covid-19

(Credit: Jack Pease Photography)

Over 40,000 people across the UK have died with the Coronavirus, including 166 NHS staff and other healthcare workers. Of those, 100 (60%) came from BAME backgrounds, while 39 (23%) were white and 27 (16%) were of unknown ethnic origin. Among those who lost their life are 30 Muslims. The Muslim News has been tracking the deaths of Muslim healthcare workers during the pandemic. Most were working on the frontline and caring for patients, while some were retired but returned to work.

May 27 | Dr Abdorreza ‘Abdy’ Sedghi, (Iranian descent), GP, Lister Hospital, Stevenage. Nick Carver, Chief Executive of East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust, said, “Abdy was an Iranian GP who came to the UK to pursue a career in general practice. He joined the Central Herts GP Training Scheme in August 2019 and was based at Lister Hospital in Stevenage. Abdy made a big impact with his charisma and personality. He was devoted to his patients, taking the ime to understand their problems and worries. As one team we offer our very sincere condolences to his family and friends and mourn the loss of a greatly valued colleague. We are providing support to our colleagues at this difficult time.”

May 18 | Dr Abdel Wahab Babiker, 70, Consultant, Scarborough Hospital. Dr Ed Smith, Director of Acute, Emergency and Elderly Medicine for Scarborough Hospital, said, “Dr Babiker was an extremely energetic, hard-working, approachable and dedicated doctor. He had a wealth of experience that he brought to bear in caring for our patients. He was particularly notable for his ‘can-do’ attitude and supportive nature and was well-liked by patients and staff alike. He will be sorely missed.”

May 10 | Karamat Ullah Mirza, 84, GP, Old Road Medical Practice, Essex. Estelle Mirza said her husband loved his job, staff and patients and “wouldn’t have wanted to live while not working. People say to me when he was born his mould was broken; he was not an average doctor. He was extraordinary,” she said. Dr Ed Garratt, Chief Executive of the Ipswich East Suffolk, West Suffolk and North East Essex clinical commissioning groups, said, “We are deeply saddened to learn of the death of Dr Mirza, a respected and much-loved GP who had served the patients in his local community for more than four decades.”

Compiled by Nadine Osman

In memoriam: Muslim healthcare workers who have died fighting Covid-19

Top row: Safaa Alam, Dr Yusuf Patel, Dr Tariq Shafi. Bottom row: Dr Medhat Atalla, Dr Mamoona Rana and Dr Nasir Khan.

Nadine Osman

Over 30,000 people across the UK have died with the Coronavirus, including more than 150 NHS staff and other healthcare workers, among them 27 Muslims. The Muslim News has been tracking their deaths during the pandemic. Most were working on the frontline and caring for patients, while some were retired but continued to work.

Names are listed chronologically by date of death. The majority of the health workers are British nationals in brackets is their country of origin.

 

May 14: Safaa Alam, 30, Risk Management Midwife, Birmingham Women’s & Children’s Hospital (BWCH). Sarah-Jane Marsh, Chief Executive, BWH, said, “Safaa was an amazing midwife whose skills and expertise helped to bring hundreds of new lives in to the world, whilst supporting women on their journey to motherhood. We promise to continue to uphold Safaa’s values and commitment to safe maternity care, wrapped up in the kindness and compassion she exemplified. Our thoughts and prayers are with her husband and family as they come to terms with their devastating loss. May you rest in peace Safaa and may God bless you and your loved ones always.”

May 6: Dr Tariq Shafi, 61 (Pakistan), Consultant Haematologist, Darent Valley Hospital, Dartford. Dartford & Gravesham NHS Trust said, “Tariq worked at the Trust as our Lead Consultant for Haematology and in his 13 years here, built an amazing team of dedicated clinicians and support workers, placing them and his patients at the heart of everything he did. Tariq will be hugely missed by his patients, his team and all of us here at the Trust. We send our sincere condolences and sympathies to his family at this tragic time.”

May 3: Dr Saad Al-Dubbaisi, 59 (Iraq), GP, Garden City Medical Practice, Bury. Dr Jeff Schryer, Chair of NHS Bury Clinical Commissioning Group said, “Dr Al-Dubbaisi, was a much loved, compassionate and experienced GP from Garden City Medical Centre. He lived and worked in Bury, and was a popular and caring member of our general practice community. Dr Al-Dubbaisi cared for generations of the same families from his practice in Holcombe Brook for many years; he will be sorely missed by his work family and patients.”

April 30: Dr Furqan Ali Siddiqui, 50, (Pakistan national), Plastic Surgeon, Manchester Royal Infirmary. The Association of Pakistani Physicians & Surgeons of the UK said, “Despite the risk to his health and life, he continued to care for his patients. He leaves behind six young children and a wife. He is another NHS hero who had travelled thousands of miles to work for the NHS and made the ultimate sacrifice.”

April 29: Momudou Dibba (Gambia) Hospital Housekeeper, Watford General Hospital. West Herts NHS Trust said, “He joined the trust in 2013. He turned his hand to other roles by working in the ESAU reception after his shift finished and at weekends. Anyone who knew Mo would know how kind, caring and considerate he was to patients and staff. He would go above and beyond for everyone, organising staff leaving parties and supporting everyone in their roles. He will be sorely missed.”

April 28: Dr Nasir Khan, 46 (Pakistan), Consultant, Dewsbury & District Hospital.  His son Mahad Ali Khan said, “My dad was a loving, caring and much-loved father, husband, son, brother and friend. He dedicated his life to his family and profession. He was incredibly strong, and we always turned to him for support, as he was a shining light of guidance. He was compassionate, humble and loyal. He always put his family and friends before himself and was extremely giving. He would always look for the slightest of excuses to help those in need. His hard-working nature and charming personality allowed him to make life even more enjoyable. We strive to achieve the greatness that was my dad and fulfil the dreams he has left behind. Miss you dad! X”

April 21: Dr Medhat Atalla, 62 (Egypt), Consultant Geriatrician, Doncaster Royal Infirmary. The President of the British Geriatrics Society, Prof Tash Masud said, “We were fortunate to have someone of Dr Atalla’s compassion and commitment providing such expert care for older patients. The lovely tributes paid by his colleagues demonstrate the regard in which he was held. News of his death has been incredibly sad for his colleagues, patients and the geriatric medicine community across the country. During a career spanning many years and different countries, he demonstrated great commitment to improving healthcare for older people and changed countless lives for the better. On behalf of the British Geriatrics Society, I send sincere condolences to his sister, brother and extended family in Egypt, and to all who knew him.”

April 20: Miharajiya Mohideen, Adult Care Nurse, Newham General Hospital, London. Her son Javed wrote on a JustGiving page set up in her memory: “I am hoping to raise £10,000 for water well to be built either in Sierra Leone or Malawi, where this will act as an ongoing charity for her.”

April 20: Dr Mohanad Noward Eltayib, 36, (Sudan), Cardiologist, Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast. His friend Dr Reem Bakheit said, “No one can prepare you for a loss. It comes like a swift wind. He was very fit and healthy no medical issues at all – very young, vibrant and full of life we just lost a kind white (pure) hearted soul but he will never be lost in our memories and thoughts of him. Our deepest sympathies go out to his family.”

April 20: Dr Yusuf Ismail Patel, 61, GP, Woodgrange Medical Practice, London. Dr Patel’s relatives have so far raised more than £14,000 towards charitable causes dear to his heart, including Islamic Relief, Ummah Welfare Trust and the Alzheimer’s Society. The family, in a message to donors, said, “Our father was one of the most compassionate, loving and fun human beings you could ever know. He served his community as a GP for over 30 years, but he was so much more than that; the working day was forever for his patients, but the rest of the time was for everyone else.”

 

April 20: Mr Sadeq Elhowsh, 58 (Libya), Orthopaedic Surgeon, St Helens & Knowsley Hospitals, Merseyside. Hundreds of NHS workers gathered outside Whiston Hospital where he died to pay tribute. Family statement: “Nothing was ever too much trouble for Sadeq. He was always there to help anyone and was happy to do whatever was needed to help his colleagues and patients,” Ravi Gudena, Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon. “Sadeq was a wonderful husband, as well as a devoted father, and he dearly loved his family. He loved his work and was dedicated to supporting his patients and his colleagues. We cannot put into words the depth of our loss. He loved his work and was dedicated to supporting his patients and his colleagues.”

April 19: Abdul Gellaledin, 53 (Sudan), Ambulance Care Assistant, Falck Ambulance UK, London. His nephew, Ahmed Aburunnat, said, “Abdul was a very kind-hearted, warm, respectful, selfless gentleman who went above and beyond for everyone he encountered. He has left a vacuum of love and mercy that we so need today. Alas, he was sent to his death unequipped.”

April 16: Dr Mamoona Rana, 46 (Pakistan), Trainee Psychiatry Registrar, N.E London Fdn Trust. Dr Azeem Qureshi her husband said, “Dr Rana was a remarkable woman who always held her head high and gave hope and joy endlessly to those around her. She was the loveliest wife and mother of our daughter. She was unique in her poise, grace, intelligence, soft nature, and beauty. I will miss her forever.”

April 14: Khalid Jamil, 57 (Pakistan), Healthcare Assistant, Watford General Hospital. His daughter Sumaiyah Jamil, 22 said, “Many will describe my dad as always having a smile on his face. His loving and supportive nature extended to all his relatives, friends, colleagues, and patients. We cannot put into words the depth of his loss. He was the heart of our family. He was a phenomenal father whom we will miss dearly, and we will keep him in our prayers and cherish our memories with him forever.”

April 1: Dr Hamza Pacheeri, 80, (India), Retired Gynecologist.

Date unknown: Dr Habibhai Babu, Snr House Officer, Whipps Cross Hospital, London.

Date unknown:  Dr Hafiz Jalal, Registrar in Cardiology.

Other Muslim healthcare workers who died of Covid-19

Featured in the April issue (No 372) of The Muslim News.

April 12: Rahima Bibi Sidhanee 68, (Bangladesh), Nurse

April 8: Dr Abdul Mabud Chowdhury 53, (Bangladesh), Consultant Urologist

April 8:  Dr Fayaz Ayache 76, (Syria), GP

April 6:  Dr Syed Zishan Haider 79, (Pakistan), GP

April 3: Areema Nasreen 36, (Pakistan), Nurse

April 2:  Prof Mohamed S Shousha 79, (Egypt), Histopathologist

March 31: Dr Alfa Sa’adu  68, (Nigeria), Geriatrician

March 28: Mr Amged El-Hawrani 58 (Sudan), ENT Consultant

March 25: Mr Adil El Tayar 63, (Sudan), Transplant Surgeon

March 25:  Dr Habib Zaidi 76, (Pakistan), GP

Covid-19 proves experts right on scale of UK’s racial inequalities

Elham Asaad Buaras

As the names and photos of frontline healthcare workers to die of Covid-19 in the UK were made public, the striking commonality was unmistakable, the overwhelming majority of them were of Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds.

Almost three out of four (72 per cent) Covid-19 healthcare workers deaths are of BAME backgrounds, despite minorities constituting less than half (44 per cent) of NHS staff.

Demands for a national inquiry intensified when it emerged BAME people in the wider population were also over-represented among the Covid-19 deaths, by as much as 27 per cent and that a third of patients in intensive-care units were non-white (triple the UK’s BAME population.)

And figures released on May 7 showed that Black people are four times more likely to die of the virus than white people.

Government statisticians analysed all Covid-19-related fatalities in England and Wales between March 2 and April 10, the results showed Black males are 4.2 times more likely to die, while Black women are 4.3 times more likely to die after contracting the virus.

Professor Gurch Randhawa of the Institute for Health Research at the University of Bedfordshire said the Government had failed to consider the UK’s diverse population when planning its Covid-19 response.

“Covid-19 has hit the BAME population hard, both in the community and among healthcare staff. This is well-publicised in other countries, for example the US but in the UK we are still playing catch-up.

Throughout the pandemic the Government has consistently failed to undertake a proper equality impact assessment of its response to Covid-19,” he said.

“We also know that some BAME nurses and healthcare assistants in the NHS often receive poorer treatment than their colleagues, a well-documented phenomenon backed by decades of research. In the context of the present crisis, this means they may have worse access to PPE, more trying shift patterns and greater exposure to Covid-19 patients,” he added.

In an unprecedented show of unity, more than half a dozen top medical institutions joined forces to demand urgent intervention. Labour launched its review into the disproportionate impact of the virus on BAME communities and new party leader Keir Starmer appointed Baroness Doreen Lawrence to the post of race relations adviser.

Public Health England promised an inquiry, albeit with the beleaguered former chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission Trevor Phillips.

Away from England, Labour MSP Anas Sarwar has urged the Scottish Government to publish data fatalities among Scotland’s ethnic minority population.

However, for countless analysts – who have for decades to one government after another of the ‘life and death’ levels of inequalities plaguing Britain’s BAME communities ‘from the cradle to the grave’ – any inquiry into why ethnic minorities disproportionately bore the brunt of the virus will not produce groundbreaking findings.

In its March editorial, The Muslim News warned that Muslims (the majority of whom are Asian and Black) “will be among the hardest hit” by the pandemic, a fortnight after that prediction was penned when it transpired that the first 10 doctors, nurse, public transport drivers and even the first child to die of the virus were all Muslims.

The factors that make BAME communities more vulnerable to Covid-19 have always existed and have been widely reported, they include the following:

Employment

Like many of its European counterparts the UK deployed a social distancing policy entailing the closure of most businesses with the option of working from home.

However, the experts argue the policy exacerbated pre-existing employment inequalities. Government figures show that ethnic minorities are more likely to work in frontline – albeit low paying – jobs.

Be it in the NHS, as care workers, shelf-stackers or bus drivers, ethnic minorities are over-represented in posts that quite simply do not offer the luxury of being able to work safely from home during the lockdown and were therefore at greater risk of being exposed to the virus.

“Given what we know about the professions that have an over-representation of BAME workers, it seems likely that they are also over-represented in four out of the eight areas of work identified as essential to keeping society functioning – health and social care, (education and) childcare, food and other necessary goods, and transport,” writes Clint Witchalls, Health and Medicine Editor at The Conversation.

Health: BAME communities are prone to higher rates of hypertension and diabetes, which may make them more likely to develop complications if infected.

Explaining why South Asians may be worse hit, Kamlesh Khunti, Professor in Primary Care Diabetes & Vascular Medicine at the University of Leicester, who analysis health data in BAME populations said, “South Asians live in more deprived areas and have more cardiovascular disease and diabetes.”
Research by King’s College London also suggests that genetic make-up may influence a person’s chances of catching the virus in the first place.

The findings come from data submitted to a symptom tracking app that has been downloaded by 2.7 million people since it was launched on March 24 and an existing study comprising 2,600 twins. The results indicate that genes are around 50 per cent responsible for how badly infected people suffer from certain symptoms.

Housing

BAME people represent more than half of all overcrowded households, are less likely to own their home and have up to nine times less green space to access.

South Asian people often live in larger, multi-generational households and so “social isolation may not be as prevalent.” Government figures confirm that cramped housing is far more likely to be a problem for ethnic minorities.

A whopping 30 per cent of the UK Bangladeshi population is living in overcrowded housing compared with two per cent among the white British population. Fifteen per cent of Black African people also live in overcrowded conditions, as do 16 per cent of Pakistanis.

BAME communities are more likely to live in larger cities, such as London, Birmingham and Manchester and usually within tight and densely populated inner-urban wards, such as Newham, Sparkbrook and Moss Side – where contagion rates are highest.

“We need to ensure that every individual, including the BAME population, are following social distancing instructions,” Khunti said. “We have anecdotal information that it might not be happening in certain BAME groups.”

Education

The inequalities continue beyond the health crisis. The decision to cancel all school exams in response to the pandemic may harm future opportunities for social mobility for many young people from BAME communities.

Concerns that the teacher-assessed grades could lead to an unfavourable bias against particular ethnic groups have been raised ever since they were announced as a replacement for this summer’s cancelled exams.

The racial equality think-tank The Runnymede Trust wrote to Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, calling on authorities to ensure that pupils from disadvantaged or BAME backgrounds did not lose their primary means of avoiding the biases and receive predicted grades that did not reflect their true potential.

The Trust’s Deputy Director, Zubaida Haque, said, “A generation of young people could lose out on opportunities for their future because of Covid-19 if we don’t act now.”

Explaining why research shows that BAME students frequently outperform the grade scores predicted by their teachers.

Paul Ian Campbell, Lecturer in Sociology, University of Leicester, writes, ‘Educationalists can sometimes hold the same racial biases about people from BAME communities that exist in wider society. They, too, are capable of thinking that black students are less suited to cognitive pursuits than vocational routes.”

‘British Pakistani and Bangladeshi students face problems too. The idea that they are culturally incompatible with western values leads to the perception that they are low achievers. These ideas facilitate negative perceptions of academic talent,’ added Campbell.

These factors work in favour of schools in affluent areas and against schools that are usually based in inner-urban and socio-economically challenged areas, home to many of the UK’s BAME communities.

Muslim businesses rally in aid of frontline workers

 

Zorba Meze Grill staff served free meals to Tunbridge Wells Hospital (Credit: ZMG)

Elham Asaad Buaras

From family-owned restaurants stocking up food banks, to small stores delivering services to the needy; to a furnishing company coordinating a small army of volunteers to produce much sought after Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to frontline workers, Muslim-owned business across the UK have galvanized their staff donating their services and products in support of the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.

Pak Foods supermarket which has five stores in the Midlands and north Staffordshire helped to stock up several food banks struggling to cope with unprecedented demand during the pandemic.

They also donated large amounts of food to Green Lane Masjid Foodbank and answered a call from Cambridge Eco Mosque to provide food for Syrian refugee families for the remainder of Ramadan.

Company Director, Nabeel Akhtar, says their food donations have also been distributed to NHS staff, the elderly and vulnerable. He said, “As a family-run business, it is our duty to give back to our community during this pandemic. We are working closely with various food banks including the Stoke-on-Trent Foodbank and have donated essential food items such as rice, bread, milk, oils and tinned foods.”

The company has increased its support of the Stoke-on-Trent Foodbank with the provision of more food and essential items.

In Birmingham, a small home and garden furnishings company made national and international news when it provided thousands of PPE to staff across the NHS.

Operating from their premises in the city centre, Loft 25 is providing the raw materials for coveralls, which it distributes to a city-wide group of a whooping 350 sewing volunteers from Green Lane Mosque in Small Heath, Birmingham.

The volunteers then turn the raw materials into PPE, which is collected by Loft 25, before being passed on for inspection by local NHS hospitals and trusts. Zhagum Arshad, owner of Loft 25 and founder of the campaign, said the decision to help out was an easy one.

“We’re not a company that specialises in PPE – it’s not something we’d ever made before,” he said. “But we can’t just stand by and watch. In a crisis like this, it’s time to stand up and be counted. It’s time for us to do our part,” he told The Muslim News. 

Between 300 and 400 volunteer machinists have already signed up to help the campaign, with representatives from Heartlands, Solihull and Worcester Hospitals and Birmingham Mental Health Trust is already enquiring about the availability of materials.

In Tunbridge Wells, Zorba Meze Grill a Turkish and Mediterranean Cuisine served over 100 meals three times to Tunbridge Wells Hospital, as well as providing halal food to all doctors and nurses. Owner Sedat Zorba told The Muslim News, “In this difficult time we want to show our support to NHS staff.”

Leadership organisation Sinan Wren UK, has distributed 5,000 of N95 FFP2 face masks, visors, coveralls, bottles of hand sanitizer and 1,000 body bags to front line NHS healthcare staff in the Homerton, the Royal London and the Whittington Hospital, the Metropolitan police, care homes, council workers, homeless projects.

The distribution and logistics teams have donated these items across the UK including the North, Midlands.

In London where the outbreak of Covid-19 has been particularly overwhelming, Sinan Wren UK worked with Finsbury Park Mosque to help distribute the PPE to the hospitals as well as to burial organisations.

 

Muslim Hands begin to distribute 2,000 pieces of PPE to UK burial services

(Photo courtesy of Muslim Hands)

Nadine Osman

UK charity Muslim Hands have begun distributing 2,000 pieces of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) to local Muslim Burial Councils and Funeral Services.

The equipment, which is limited across the UK, will include a hazmat suit, visor, foot covers and N95 mask, enough to protect a team of five.

The UK’s now the highest death toll in Europe with over 31,000 people dead and over 211,000 confirmed infected. Emerging evidence suggests that Covid-19 is having a disproportionate effect on people from BAME backgrounds.

In a statement to The Muslim News, the Charity’s Programmes Director, Shakil Sidat said, “Access to the correct amenities” are “not only for protection against the disease but to carry out their moral responsibility of honouring the deceased in the best way possible.”

Sufi Muhammad Ramzan, Islamic Centre Nottingham Coordinator, thanked the charity, “for their prompt response to our request in supplying PPE, as we have been short of this urgent resource.”

“Once this supply is finished, we will urgently need more PPE and at greater quantity, which we hope can be facilitated.”

Two Imams from same mosque die of Covid-19

Elham Asaad Buaras

Two imams from the same mosque in Blackburn died after contracting Covid-19. The deaths of Hazrat Abdul Razzak Jalgaonkar and Abdul Majid Hodekar of Masjid-al-Momineen on Ash Street were announced on April 23.

Jalgaonkar and Hodekar were known throughout the region and the community had supported their mosque in a range of charitable causes over many years.

A statement from the mosque said, “Due to the current Government guidelines we are unable to share funeral details with you, we kindly request that you abide by these rules and support us in these difficult times.”

Leader of Blackburn Darwen Council, Councillor Mohammed Khan, said, “Both men were well known and very well respected. I think this Covid-19 situation is going to impact many people, and the families of the imams are devastated.”

Charity worker, Zahid Chopdat, who attends the mosque, said both men “were well known for their impeccable character, humility, dedication and piety. May the Almighty give strength and patience to their loved ones dealing with their loss.”

Nine mosques permitted to broadcast adhan in Waltham Forest

Elham Asaad Buaras

For the first time, nine mosques in an east London borough have been allowed to broadcast the call to prayer (adhan) publicly, due to the lockdown occurring during Ramadan.

Waltham Forest Council agreed that mosques could perform the adhan for Maghrib (sunset) prayers as mosques are closed and Muslims are unable to communally pray.

The adhan was first broadcast on May 4 and will continue throughout Ramadan as well as for Jum’ah (Friday) prayers.

Arfan Abrahim of Waltham Forest Council of Mosques, which made the request to the council, said, “It happens in Whitechapel at the East London mosque and has been happening for many years, but in this side of London never, and in this borough specifically, never.”

Abrahim said this Ramadan had been a very different experience than usual as mosques are closed. “It’s something that I don’t want to experience ever again, but we have to adapt and the plus point is we are spending more time at home with family and praying together as a family, spending more time with the kids,” he said.

He and others had leafleted houses in the surrounding area to explain what would be happening. “It has become quite a good talking point which breaks down barriers. We have had a generally positive response, but some negative which we expect. Overall it has been brilliant,” he added.

Waltham Forest-based mosques permitted to broadcast the adhan:

Cann Hall Dean Mosque
Faizan-E-Islam Mosque
Ghosia Masjid Wfia
Leyton Jamia Masjid
Leytonstone Masjid
Masjid Abu Bakr
Masjid Tawhid Masjid-E-Umer
Noor Ul Islam

Eid messages from political leaders – 2020

Eid messages from the Prime Minister, Leader of the Labour Party, Leader of the Liberal Democrats, First Ministers of Scotland and Wales as well as the Mayor of London.

 

Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP, Prime Minister

As Ramadan comes to a close; I want to say two things to all our Muslim friends and neighbours, here in the UK and around the world. A heartfelt “Eid Mubarak”, of course. But also a very big “thank you.”

Because over these difficult past few weeks Britain’s Muslims have gone above and beyond in doing their bit to keep this country going. For many that has been achieved by staying at home, saving lives by sacrificing time with your loved ones even when I know you ached to be at the mosque or breaking your fast with friends and family.

Across the country, we’ve also seen countless Muslims stepping up to help take care of their local communities, or hard at work in vital sectors from schools to transport to retail. Rarely has the Islamic commandment to provide charity to those in need been better displayed.

And of course, there are the many heroes of Muslim faith serving on the frontline as part of our fantastic National Health Service. Brave men and women who, in the best traditions of Islam, are selflessly giving of themselves to help those in need – with some, including the remarkable young hospital housekeeper, turned newly qualified nurse Areema Nasreen, tragically losing their lives as a result. It has been a holy month quite unlike any this country – or the worldwide Ummah – has ever known.

But if we keep going, if we stay alert even as restrictions begin to ease, we will control this virus and we will save lives.

And as that happens I am sure we will all see, once again, the incredible contribution that Muslims make to life in this country – something that, even in these challenging times, is always something we should celebrate.

 

Rt Hon Sir Keir Starmer MP, Leader, Labour Party

To everyone celebrating Eid-al Fitr here in the UK – Eid Mubarak on behalf of the Labour Party.

I know this Ramadan has been especially tough for Muslim communities. Families have not been able to see each other; people unable to break fast together or even go to the mosque for prayers. Yet, I have witnessed incredible resilience. Muslim communities and charities coming together to deliver iftar meals to our frontline NHS staff and doctors.

People providing to foodbanks to help the vulnerable and significant donations to many charitable causes. I had the pleasure of joining a ‘Virtual Iftar’ with Labour MPs and the Muslim community, and it was heartening to hear how we’ve all stood together at a time of crisis.

And, I know Eid is one of those joyous occasions where communities all come together to celebrate. Still, as ever, our number one priority remains to keep all of our loved ones and communities safe. As the stark figures show, Covid-19 has disproportionately affected BAME communities, and we will work together to address these issues of health inequality and social injustices.

To these ends, I have entrusted Baroness Doreen Lawrence to lead a review into the impact of Coronavirus on Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities.

I want to personally thank everyone that is continuing to help keep us safe, and there is no doubt we will come out stronger together when this crisis ends.
I wish you all a pleasant and enjoyable Eid.

Eid Mubarak.

 

Rt Hon Nicola Sturgeon, MSP, First Minister of Scotland

I am sending my warmest wishes to all Muslim communities in Scotland, and around the world, this Eid al-Fitr.

I know that this year’s Ramadan has been incredibly difficult for Muslim communities and Eid al-Fitr, traditionally a celebration which brings people together, will be no exception.

I want to thank Scotland’s Muslim communities for following the guidance to protect our NHS and save lives. I am sure that you will continue to do so, and thereby help keep your families, communities and Scotland safe during your celebrations.

Thank you for the huge contribution you all make to our society, which is particularly valued during these challenging times.

I wish you a happy, peaceful and safe Eid. Eid Mubarak.

 

Rt Hon Sir Ed Davey MP, Acting Leader, Liberal Democrats

I would like to send warm wishes to Muslims at home in the UK and around the world celebrating Eid al-Fitr.

I’m sure that this Ramadan must have felt unusual and I know that observing a socially distanced Eid will not be easy either.

This year, I joined MPs and party members in fasting for one day of Ramadan and this culminated in a Liberal Democrats Iftar – the first for our party. The fast was challenging at times, but I’m so proud that we were able to do this one small act as a symbol of our solidarity with British Muslims at this time.

I want to thank the doctors and nurses who have sacrificed their lives in the battle against Covid-19. We will always remember them, and we must never forget that many of them were British Muslims.

A thorough investigation into why BAME communities have been disproportionately impacted by this virus is needed now more than ever.

Of course, Eid is known as “the Festival of the Breaking of the Fast”, and it’s usually a time to come together with loved ones to enjoy festive meals and share gifts but instead, during these challenging times, people will remain isolated in their homes, going out only for essential food and brief periods of exercise.

Though this will be tough, I’m sure that the sacrifices we all make now will reduce the impact of this virus.

So to everyone celebrating Eid, I wish you joy and peace.

Eid Mubarak!

 

Rt Hon Mark Drakeford AM, First Minister of Wales

I would like to send my very best wishes to Muslims throughout Wales and across the world who are marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan. The resilience and creativity of our Muslim communities in Wales have filled me with hope.

The key Islamic values of charity and compassion during Ramadan have never faltered through this difficult time we are all facing. Many of you have focussed on helping those who may be less fortunate, and have united neighbours, communities and families using new technologies.

I know that this year Ramadan has been a very different from other years but, this Eid, I will reflect, and I hope you will, on the enormous contribution the Muslim communities of Wales make to Welsh society each and every day.

To all who are celebrating, ‘Eid Mubarak’.

 

Rt Hon Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London

I’d like to send my warmest wishes to Muslims in London and around the world as we celebrate Eid.

This Ramadan has been unlike any other – with mosques left empty and all of us unable to break our fasts with family or friends beyond our households as many usually would.

But as these long summer fasts draw to a close, rather than celebrating Eid in Trafalgar Square, uniting in mosques across our city or embracing our family and friends as we normally would, we must all continue to play our part by keeping our social distance.

I’m proud of everyone for the sacrifices they have made and continue to make during this time. I want to particularly pay tribute to those who have been observing Ramadan while working on the front line.

Their fasts have been incredibly tough as they have worked around the clock in incredibly demanding circumstances to help us all.

It has required commitment and creativity from the whole community to be together but physically apart, and like many Muslims, I have enjoyed taking part in virtual iftars and connecting with others through online gatherings and prayer. I am sure that this spirit of togetherness will last beyond Ramadan.

Although this has been a challenging time for all of us, I’ve been inspired by communities coming together to support not just their family and loved ones but to offer kindness to those who need it the most. We have seen the very best of our city with extraordinary acts of charity and empathy proving that our sense of community will never be confined by walls.

It is disappointing that we cannot join together with communities from every faith, background and walk of life to celebrate Eid in Trafalgar Square this year, but it was the right decision to cancel to protect the National Health Service and help save lives.

I look forward to the time that we can gather together again.

From my family to yours, Eid Mubarak.

Celebrating Eid al-Fitr virtually

(Photo: Obaid Ahmed, 36 & Zaynah Ali, 8)

Aishah Ali

Eid al-Fitr is an auspicious occasion meaning the ‘festival of breaking the fast’ marks the beginning of the month of Shawwal.

Muslims pray in congregation in mosques to thank God for allowing them to observe the blessed month of Ramadan and engage in worship and good work. Muslims are required to give to charity for the poor and the needy before the Eid day enabling them to also join in the happiness.

Eid day usually begins with congregational prayers at mosques, followed by meeting fellow Muslims in the community, exchanging gifts, and sharing food. However, this year most countries remain under lockdown measures as a result of the Coronavirus crisis.

Muslims won’t be able to pray in congregations in mosques and will only have a virtual meeting with their family and friends and wish them Eid Mubarak. They will pray at home and celebrate within the household. A few individuals shared their thoughts and plans under these circumstances.

Hajrija Dergić, 26, Lecturer lives in Wolverhampton said:

“It will be a very different Eid for us this year, with the Eid prayers now taking place at home and online gatherings replacing visits to see relatives and friends, invitations to share food and gifts with our communities all seem but a distant dream. Yet we must count our blessings and appreciate the family and friends we have; we are blessed to experience another Ramadan, and we are so fortunate to be able to spend it in the comfort of our own homes with our loved ones.”

Zaynah Ali, 8, Wolverhampton said:

“Ramadan has been very different this year because we are in lockdown. Normally we would sleep early as we have to go to school, but now we can join our family for iftar and I enjoy this because I can go to bed late. Also, this Ramadan I kept my first fast which was amazing. Eid will be very different compared to last year. I am upset that we will not be able to go to the mosque to pray Eid salah and can’t spend time with our relatives. But this Eid we still plan to bake cupcakes, eat delicious food and play lots of games with my family.”

Abdulrahman Jawad, 31, Accountant, Birmingham said

“Eid is a joyous day, and it is a time when we celebrate the blessings received during Ramadan. I usually begin with prayers at the masjid and then meeting my wider family and friends. However, due to the social distancing measures, celebrations will be considerably different. I plan to pray Eid salah at home with my family. We will miss socialising with other relatives, so we plan to catch up through video calls. Delicious food will still be prepared but not in larger amounts as we don’t anticipate any visitors.”

Obaid Ahmed, 36, Pharmacist, Wolverhampton, said:

“We live in unprecedented times and like every other aspect of our daily lives has had to be adjusted because of the Coronavirus, Eid celebrations will be adjusted too. Where typically we spend the day surrounded by loved ones, often travelling from house-to-house to meet them all, this will not be possible this year. A typical Eid begins with Eid prayers in mosques, and that too will not be possible this year. However, Eid is a celebration and we have much to be grateful for and for that reason we will dress up, make fancy food we usually do and share it with our family. It will be an online celebration, maybe a coordinated visit to the local parks, but it will definitely be a celebration!”

One in five healthcare workers could quit post-Covid-19

(Credit: Pxfuel/Commons)

Nadine Osman

A leading think tank has warned that one in five healthcare workers in the UK could quit after the pandemic unless urgent Government action is taken.

A major poll released on April 23, by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) of almost 1,000 healthcare professionals reveals that Covid-19 has made more than one in five healthcare workers more likely to leave their role after the pandemic.

In the NHS in England, this would be the equivalent of losing 300,000 vital workers. IPPR warns that if urgent action is not taken, healthcare capacity could be impacted for years after the end of the Covid-19 crisis.

The polling informs a new IPPR report Care Fit For Carers – which proposes a comprehensive support package for frontline ‘heroes of the Coronavirus’, with the same ambition as the post-WWI drive to deliver ‘homes fit for heroes.’

The polling reveals that healthcare professionals have significant and diverse needs, which are not being supported properly during the Covid-19 crisis. Half of the healthcare workers said their mental health had deteriorated since the Covid-19 crisis began.

Mental health impact was greatest on younger workers (34 & under) – whereas many as 71% said their mental health had deteriorated. As many as one in three reported that their physical health has got worse since the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis. Half of the healthcare workers said the Government had not done enough to protect their families’ health.

Of those aged 35 to 44 (the age group most likely to have children) 34% said childcare had become a problem. One-third of those working in private sector roles in the health service – eg – agency workers and subcontractors – said that they had lost job security during the Covid-19 crisis. Care Fit for Carers calls for safety, accommodation, mental health, pay and care guarantees for carers.

“No one should have to put their health at risk because PPE is lacking. No one should face a mental health crisis because no support was there. And no one should face financial destitution while delivering our crisis response,” said Lead author of the report Chris Thomas.

Prof Martin Green, CEO of Care England, said, “An important legacy of this crisis must be securing the status of social care as one equal to the NHS. Never again must social care be the underdog. Social care must retain its rightful status which will, therefore, necessitate adequate resourcing, funding and status.”

Public Health England dilutes inquiry into disproportionate BAME Covid-19 deaths

Cabinet Minister Michael Gove and Medical Director, Prof Stephen Powis both respond to questions from Editor of The Muslim News, Ahmed J Versi during the daily Covid-19 Digital Press Conference with NHS on May 3

(Credit: Pippa Fowles/No 10 Downing St)

Hamed Chapman

A Government inquiry into the disproportionate impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities in the UK is being rushed through this month after being watered down into just a general review of “factors impacting health outcomes from Covid-19.”

In a belated announcement on May 4, outline details of the review led by Public Health England (PHE) were briefly set out after the intervention by The Muslim News Editor, Ahmed J Versi, who questioned what were the terms of reference as well as the composition of the panel planning to carry it out.

“The review will help provide insight into emerging evidence to suggest Covid-19 may be having a disproportionate impact on different groups and examine the potential effects of other factors such as ethnicity, level of obesity or gender,” PHE said in a statement.

It also said that it would “match laboratory records of Covid-19 cases to existing health records to draw down accurate data such as ethnicity and describe the association with Covid-19 cases, alongside other factors such as sex, age and geographical location.”

The disproportionate effect of the deadly pandemic on BAME people in all walks of life, including medical and other front line staff, has caused widespread alarm with numerous calls and initiatives that have led to demands going as far as the need for a full independent public inquiry.

Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock, insisted that the review was part of the Government’s “continued effort to reduce health inequalities, we have commissioned Public Health England to consider various factors such as obesity, ethnicity, age, gender and geographical location.”

“It’s an extremely important and hugely complex task, but we owe it to the nation to find out how this virus may affect different groups in different ways, to protect lives and limit the spread of the disease,” Hancock was quoted saying in the belated announcement.

During Downing Street’s Daily Briefings on May 3, Versi also challenged Cabinet Office Minister, Michael Gove, whether such a controversial character like Trevor Phillips was suitable to play a leading role in the review.

Versi quoted from Phillips that Covid-19 death rates from Bangladeshi and Pakistani Muslim communities were not significantly higher than the general population and claimed that this could be because of ritual washing [before prayers].

Versi added that reports published showed that rates of deaths were higher in these communities than in the general population. Despite saying he was not aware of this by former chair of Human Rights Commission, Gove insisted he was a “distinguished public servant.”

In response to The Muslim News Editor that Public Health England needs to look at structural issues of racism and discrimination which increase health risk in ethnic minorities, Gove agreed that the review should not only look at just potential biological aspects but “perhaps socio-economic structural factors which may lead to inequality and that inequality may have been a result of discrimination.

We need to look at all these things proportionately.” Responding to the same question by Versi, NHS England Medical Director, Professor Stephen Powis, also acknowledged the role of discrimination in health outcomes amongst BAME communities.

“It may be the case that amongst some minority population, there is a greater prevalence of co-morbidities, that may be a factor or there may also be the factor that inequality can contribute to public health outcomes and it may be that we need to take a step back and look more broadly at some of the inequalities that do exist in our society.”

Despite his apparent role has been on record in a series of interviews and tweets, Phillips has been extraordinarily airing his views that he seems to have already made up his mind that the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on BAME people has nothing to do with structural racism nor social-economic factors.

Phillips has already been suspended by the Labour Party pending an investigation into his alleged Islamophobia.Apart from leading an outcry against the involvement of Phillips in the PHE review, hundreds of doctors have joined other professional, academics and faith leaders among others in writing an open letter to Boris Johnson calling for the review to be broadened into a full independent public inquiry to “include a focus on the levels of exposure BAME staff are facing, and whether employers are fulfilling their duty of care.”

The letter also asks whether Government emergency planning fulfilled the Public Sector Equalities Duty by factoring in the needs of BAME communities. “By instigating such an inquiry, the Government will provide an opportunity for a range of stakeholders to submit evidence through a transparent process,” it says.

One of the signatories, Dr Martin Edobor, an NHS General Practitioner and Vice-Chair, Fabian Society, said that the focus was too narrow. “The scope of a PHE inquiry would not be sufficient in addressing and tackling the roots of the inequalities that are likely to be present,” he said in an article for the Health Service Journal directed at healthcare leaders.

More than 70 BAME British figures on May 10 called for an independent public inquiry into the disproportionate deaths from Covid-19 amongst Britons from minority backgrounds.

On race and health inequalities, the letter says: “Covid-19 is clearly now one of the biggest issues in post-war history, directing a spotlight on race and health inequalities.

By instigating such an inquiry, the government will provide an opportunity for a range of stakeholders to submit evidence through a transparent process. This would help to restore public confidence amongst the UK’s BAME community.

The broad coalition of signatories from across society includes industry experts and people in public life such as Phil Wang, Kwame Kwei-Armah, Saloum N’jie, Bonnie Greer OBE, Farooq Chaudhry OBE, Matt Henry MBE, Shaun Escoffery and Jermaine Jackman.

Faith leaders including Harun Khan, the Secretary-General of the Muslim Council of Britain, and the Very Rev Rodgers Govender, Dean of Manchester Cathedral, have signed the letter.

Starmer insists Labour’s Kashmir policy unchanged following backlash

(Photo credit: Chris McAndrew/UK Parliament | Kashmir photo: Seyyed Sajed Hassan Razavi/WikiCommons)

Elham Asaad Buaras

Labour Leader, Sir Keir Starmer, was forced to clarify he has “not changed” the party’s policy on Kashmir after a previous statement suggested a revised pro-India policy. This caused an uproar among Muslim groups, human rights organisations as well as opposition from 50 Labour MPs.

Labour, under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, passed an emergency motion at a conference last year stating that Kashmir “is a disputed territory and the people of Kashmir should be given the right of self-determination in accordance with United Nations resolutions.”

The motion was passed following India’s decision to strip the region of its semi-autonomy and downgraded it into two federal territories.

In a meeting with the executive members of Labour Friends of India group on April 30, Starmer said that the Kashmir crises were a bilateral issue for India and Pakistan.

He added that such, “issues of the subcontinent” should not “divide communities here” and that they were “constitutional issues in India and a matter for the Indian parliament. Any constitutional issues in India are a matter for the Indian Parliament, and Kashmir is a bilateral issue for India and Pakistan to resolve peacefully. Labour is an internationalist party and stands for the defence of human rights everywhere,” said Starmer.

He was immediately warned by the Vice-Chair of London Labour Seema Chanwani, “Starmer cannot meet with an unaffiliated unaccountable group of people and change the Conference position on Kashmir unilaterally.”

And Chair of Labour Friends of Kashmir, Andrew Gwynne MP, told Starmer that the nearly one-million strong British Kashmiri community is anguished after his controversial comments on the issue of India-occupied Kashmir. According to media reports, 50 Labour MPs had participated in a video conference with Starmer on May 7 and told him of their opposition to his statement.

‘It is a matter of international law, of which the United Kingdom has a specific interest in seeing the matter properly resolved within the terms of the UNSC resolutions (both as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, and as the former colonial power which left the status of Kashmir ambiguous upon the granting of independence to India and Pakistan),’ said Gwynne in a letter to Starmer.

Following a week of backlash — which included a warning by over 100 mosques and Islamic centres threatening to boycott Labour — Starmer seemingly u-turned and insisted a lasting settlement may only be reached “with the people of Kashmir.”

In a revised statement issued in a letter to the Muslim Council of Britain on May 8, Starmer stresses the importance of hearing “the voices of the Kashmiri communities” and insisted the opposition will continue to support the previous UN resolutions on the rights of the Kashmiri people.

Centenarian raises over £200k for the vulnerable

(Photo: Family handout)

Elham Asaad Buaras

100-year-old Londoner Dabir Islam Choudhury has raised over £200,000 (and counting) for charities walking laps around his communal garden while fasting. The aid will be distributed to orphaned children and vulnerable families in the UK, Bangladesh, Gaza, Syria and Yemen.

When Choudhury, was in self-isolation for six weeks, he saw that there were so many people contracting and dying of Covid-19 and he wanted to help them.

He asked his son, Atique, 57, to help him raise funds,“I told him 100-year-old Colonel Tom Moore was raising funds by walking in his garden. I asked him if he can walk 50 laps to raise funds. My dad replied, ‘I can walk for 500 laps,’” Atique told The Muslim News.

Choudhury’s grandson, Rishi, 22, started a JustGiving page, and they expected to collect £1,000, they hit that target “within eight hours,” said Atique.

Choudhury now says he won’t stop walking as long as donors keep donating. He wakes up early in the morning to do his walking. “He is very healthy. He used to be a professional footballer in Bangladesh,” said Atique, who is the owner of Yum Yum Thai Restaurant in north London.

Choudhury told The Muslim News that he will continue to walk for the whole of Ramadan. “I am very happy that during the holy month of Ramadan we have been able to raise funds for the needy and the helpless in the UK and Bangladesh and many countries. I would like to thank everybody for the help, support and goodwill that have been created,” he said. “I feel blessed that I can help people,” he added.

Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan tweeted on May 12 about the dedication of Choudhury of raising funds for those affected by the Coronavirus,
‘What an inspiration walking 100 laps of his community garden whilst fasting during Ramadan.

On May 5, the UK became Europe’s hardest-hit country, in terms of deaths from the Coronavirus, overtaking Italy, with more than 32,000 people having died with Covid-19.

Update the headline and total figure is different from the print copy as donations to Choudhury’s JustGiving page continue to rise: As of May 22,9,319 people have donated over £212,811.63 (including Gift Aid) to his charity.

Additional reporting by Ahmed J Versi

Over 120 people attended a landmark conference on the media reporting of Islam and Muslims. It was held jointly by The Muslim News and Society of Editors in London on September 15.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2015 was held on March in London to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to the society.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2015 was held on March in London to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to the society.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence event is to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to society. Over 850 people from diverse background, Muslim and non-Muslim, attended the gala dinner.

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